Close-up of a pumpkin dish with meat and kale and someone cutting a bite to eat with knife and fork

Did you know you have hunger hormones? Our bodies naturally produce these nine hormones to aide in everything from nutrient storage to appetite control and an imbalance in them could be behind those bad eating habits or appetite gone rogue. 

Kelly LeVeque, one of L.A.’s most sought after holistic nutritionists, is blitzing us on the topic of hunger hormones below. Find out why she finds this science so compelling for anyone looking to get their health in peak condition…

Hunger is caused by a complicated chemistry of numerous hormones that have the ability to override our “willpower” and drive us to eat. Below is very condensed, high-level summary of a very complicated interplay of how the body strives to keep itself fed and balanced, whether it is given food or not. Normally, these hormones work harmoniously, balance each other and maintain blood-sugar balance, so we never feel too hungry and eat more than is necessary for proper functioning.

My nutrition clients learn how to eat complex meals to turn off hunger hormones instead of fighting not to eat. They learn to become aware of their hunger, stress and reward hormones and diligently shut them down with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Instead of snacking they naturally ditch the diet mentality and easily fast four to six hours between meals in a balanced blood-sugar state.

The Fab Four is a light structure I built to help my clients remember what nourishing foods they should eat to elongate their blood-sugar curve, support hormone production, microbiome proliferation and healthy body composition. Eating according to the Fab Four guidelines also helps balance various hunger-related hormones and keeps your body and your cravings satiated for hours. In the list below, I’ve summarized how eating protein, fat, fiber and greens at every meal specifically helps to regulate your body’s hunger-related hormones…

Storage Hormone: Insulin

Role: Secreted by pancreas to allow your cells to take in glucose (blood sugar) for energy or storage. Prevents fat cells from being broken down.

When things go wrong: Hyperinsulinemia (chronically elevated insulin), insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, increased hunger and cravings.

What to do about it: Reduce carbohydrates to reduce chronic and excess insulin secretion. Reduce fructose known to increase insulin levels and linked to insulin resistance. Exercise to burn glycogen stores and increase insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscles.

How Fab4 supports: Protein: Eating protein rich meals is linked to weight loss and the reduction in insulin resistance. Fat: Omega 3 found in fish can help lower fasting insulin levels. Greens: Magnesium found in leafy greens can improve insulin sensitivity.

Satiety Hormone: Leptin

Role: Produced by fat cells, this hormone notifies the hypothalamus (brain) that there is enough fat in storage and prevents overeating.

When things go wrong: Leptin resistance: When impaired signaling doesn’t trigger the brain to calm hunger hormones. This malfunction is linked to obesity, chronically elevated insulin and hypothalamus inflammation.

What to do about it: Avoid inflammatory foods: seed oils. Calm insulin spikes. Sleep: Sleep deprivation is linked to drops in leptin levels. Exercise increases leptin sensitivity

How Fab4 supports: Focus on anti-inflammatory foods. Fat: Focus on omega-3 fatty acids.

Hunger” or “Gorilla” Hormone: Ghrelin

Role: Keeps you eating until physically full. Released when the stomach is empty and stops when the stomach is stretched. Ghrelin is highest before eating and lowest an hour after eating.

When things go wrong: Studies in obese patients show circulating ghrelin doesn’t decrease and for that reason the brain doesn’t receive the signal to stop eating.

What to do about it: Avoid white carbohydrates, sugar and especially sugary drinks that increase hunger without stretching the stomach lining.

How Fab4 supports: Protein: Eat protein at every meal, especially breakfast to promote satiety. Fiber: Eat foods that have mass to physically stretch the stomach lining.

Full Hormone: Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1) 

Role: Produced and released when food enters the intestines to tell our brain we are full.

When things go wrong: Chronic inflammation reduces GLP-1 production, which negatively effects satiety signaling.

What to do about it: Avoid inflammatory foods. Take Probiotics.

How Fab4 supports: Protein: High protein meals increase GLP-1 production. Fat: Chronic inflammation is linked to reduction of GLP1, increasing anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats can help squelch inflammation. Fiber: A diet rich in prebiotic fiber and resistant starch increases the production of short-chain fatty acids, like butyrate in the gut that increase GLP1 production. Greens: Leafy green vegetables increase GLP-1 levels. Eat a diet of anti-inflammatory foods.

Satiety Hormone: Cholecystokinin (CCK)

Role: Produced by cells in the gastrointestinal tract and nervous system. CCK is released by duodenum and stimulates gallbladder contraction and pancreatic and gastric acid secretion; it slows gastric emptying and suppresses energy intake.

When things go wrong: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can cause an overproduction of CCK that leads to increased prolactin, ACTH and cortisol.

What to do about it: Remove any suspected food allergies and eat complete meals.

How Fab4 supports: Protein: Initial studies suggest the direct interaction of CCK and dietary protein contributes to satiety response. Fat: Fat triggers release of CCK. Fiber: Fiber can double CCK production.

Control Hormone: Peptide YY (PYY)

Role: Control hormone in the gastrointestinal tract that reduces appetite.

When things go wrong: Insulin resistance and chronically elevated blood sugar impairs production of PYY.

What to do about it: Balanced blood sugar increases PYY response and production.

How Fab4 supports: Protein: PYY concentrations increase after a protein based meal. Fiber: Fiber increases PYY production.

Stimulate Hormone: Neuropeptide Y (NYP)

Role: Hormone produced in the brain and nervous system that “stimulates” appetite for carbohydrates.

When things go wrong: Stress induces the production of NYP that leads to appetite stimulation and overeating. Fasting and food deprivation can stimulate this hormone.

What to do about it: Eat complete meals regularly. Intermittently fast with caution.

How Fab4 supports: Protein: Lack of protein increases the release of NYP.

Stress Hormone: Cortisol

Role: The “stress hormone” produced by the adrenals when the body senses stress.

When things go wrong: Chronically elevated levels of cortisol can lead to overeating and weight gain. High levels of cortisol are linked to belly fat in women.

What to do about it: Manage stress levels through meditation, movement and good sleep. Talk to loved ones and ask for help when needed.

How Fab4 supports: Eat three balanced meals daily of protein, fat, fiber and greens.

Reward Hormone: Dopamine

Role: Released when we eat food. This is the same hormone that is released with any other form of addiction like smoking.

When things go wrong: Eating processed food, carbohydrates and sugar causes a large surge in dopamine. Continuously eating these foods causes the brain to down regulate dopamine receptors in the brain. Thus we need to eat more and more to get the same fix.

What to do about it: Eat processed foods, carbohydrates and sugar sparingly to discourage addiction, cravings and overeating. Eat Fab Four and always start your day with Fab Four breakfast or protein-rich Be Well Smoothie.

How Fab4 supports: Protein: Stimulates dopamine and starts the day balanced instead of experiencing increasing cravings throughout the day. Food addict? Make that Be Well Smoothie Cocoa. Cocoa increases stimulation of dopamine, helping food addicts’ balance.

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. 
All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program. 

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